September 20, 2012
By Ramonica Jones
Every year, Special Olympics Texas hosts an awards ceremony to recognize the volunteers, athletes, families and businesses that make the Special Olympics Texas experience possible for our athletes. Special Olympics Texas would like to congratulate our 2012 Chapter Award Winners listed below.
Male Athlete of the Year (15-21): Brennan O'Donnell
Brennan O’Donnell is an aquatics, bowling, basketball, athletics (track and field), golf and powerlifting athlete from Round Rock. He joined the movement in 1999 and serves the organization as a Global Messenger and member of the Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs). When O’Donnell is not going for the gold at a SOTX competition, he serves his community as an Eagle Scout.
Male Athlete of the Year (22+): Lyndon LaPlante
Lyndon LaPlante is a golf, powerlifting and equestrian athlete from the Greater Fort Worth area. He began competing with SOTX in 1995 and now serves the organization as a member of the ALPs and Global Messenger.
Female Athlete of the Year (15-21): Dalia Martinez
Dalia Martinez joined SOTX in 2001 and competes in roller skating, basketball, athletics (track and field), equestrian and bowling events in the San Antonio area.
Female Athlete of the Year (22+): Leanne Owens
Leanne Owens is a longtime SOTX athlete who joined the movement in 1984. The figure skating, basketball, bocce, golf, aquatics and bowling competitor is also an assistant coach, Global Messenger and member of the Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) in the Greater Dallas area.
Volunteer of the Year: Amy Ramey
Amy Ramey became involved with the movement more than 30 years ago and has dedicated well over 1,500 hours as a results director at state Games, volunteer at area and regional competitions and committee member in the San Antonio area.
Coach of the Year: J'Nette Thorne
J'Nette Thorne became involved with SOTX in 1996 and dedicates her time to the organization in a variety of roles. She is a head of delegation in the Panhandle area, trainer, chaperone, competition director for several sports and member of the Area Sports Management Team (ASMT) and Games Committee. Thorne is currently involved with athletics (track & field), bowling, basketball, powerlifting, tennis and many other SOTX sports.
Outstanding Volunteer for Sports and Competition: Sherri Mell
Sherri Mell first volunteered in 1994 and is a head of delegation and coach for basketball, bowling, roller skating, athletics and equestrian competitions in the San Antonio area.
Outstanding Service for Outreach: Abigail Wylie
Abigail Wylie began volunteering with SOTX in 2007 as an aquatics coach in the Greater Houston area. During her time with the organization, she’s helped implement and grow the Young Athletes (YA) program in the Katy school district. YA is a sports play program designed to introduce children ages two to seven to the world of sports prior to Special Olympics eligibility at age eight. Today, K.I.S.D. has more than 100 Young Athletes.
Outstanding Volunteer for Fundraising: Hector Amaya
Hector Amaya has contributed more than $130,000 in cash and in-kind donations to SOTX this year. He became involved with the movement in 2011 and serves on the planning committee and secures the title sponsorship for the annual Coca-Cola Celebrity Golf Classic event in Houston. Amaya also commits his time as a volunteer at state Games and local and regional SOTX events and competitions.
Outstanding Service from a Civic or Service Organization: Alhambra
The International Order of Alhambra became involved with SOTX in 1985 and on average, has about 25 members who regularly volunteer at area fundraisers and competitions. The group’s purpose is to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities and its participants supply everything from food and labor to cooks and servers at SOTX events. Alhambra has also raised tens of thousands of dollars for Greater El Paso area athletes over the past 32 years.
Family of the Year: The Bethea Family
Robert and Shelley Bethea began volunteering in 2005 and have a son and daughter who compete in the program. Mrs. Bethea is a certified coach in six SOTX sports and Mr. Bethea is on the South Texas area’s Spring Games committee. Both also help out with local fundraisers and trainings in the South Texas area.
Unified Sports Partner of the Year: Gary Schwartz
Gary Schwartz is a lifelong SOTX volunteer in the South Texas area. He became involved with SOTX in 1983 as a coach for his son’s team. He now serves on the training committee and is a bowling competition director, as well as a committee member, coach and Unified Partner.
Outstanding Service from a Business/Corporation: Southwest Dairy Farmers
Southwest Dairy Farmers became involved with SOTX in 2000 as a Summer Games sponsor. Today, the Greater Fort Worth area company is also a Fall Classic sponsor and has contributed more than $30,000 in cash and in-kind donations to SOTX this year. During their 12 years of participation, Southwest Dairy Farmers has contributed more than $240,000 in financial support to SOTX.
Outstanding Service from a Community Leader: Roberto Santos
Roberto Santos began participating in SOTX in 2004. He’s served the organization as an awards presenter at local bowling competitions and Spring Games. As superintendent of the United I.S.D. in Laredo, Santos was compelled to get involved after seeing firsthand the impact that Special Olympics Texas had on his community. He even donates the district’s Student Activity Complex to SOTX for athlete practices and area events.
Trainer of the Year: Shirley Johnson
Shirley Johnson is a 44-year San Antonio area volunteer and serves as a head coach (certified in more than 6 sports), member of the State Presidents Advisory Committee and Families Committee, just to name a few activities.